Dieter Helm New York Times Op-Ed

Craig Morris just discussed an anti-renewable op-ed by Dieter Helm in the New York Times in some detail.

As Morris correctly noted, there are not much new arguments found in this op-ed, though it is an impressive collection of standard anti-renewable talking points.

Helm’s misguided position is that renewable energy will never get us anywhere, so we need to forget about renewable and listen to his magic solution of the problem, which is introducing a carbon tax.

Of course, Europe (which he dismisses as doing nothing of consequence) already has a carbon tax in the form of the Emission Trade System. And the United States and China don’t.

So he wants to introduce a new tariff that extends the European system indirectly world wide by taxing imports from China and the United States.

I am all for such a proposal. On the other hand, this has been tried on a very small scale just recently when the EU extended the Emission Trade System to international aviation. Helm doesn’t mention it, but the response in China and the United States was not enthusiastic. And the EU Commission now wants to postpone enforcing the new law for one year.

I am also all for having a price on carbon everywhere. Again, Helm doesn’t mention it, but the political situation in the United States does not seem favorable to getting this done any time soon.

Even in Europe, which does put a tax on some carbon, the cost of permits are way too low, and adjustments are proceeding too slow. The Commission just proposed a half-measure of “backloading” instead of radically reducing the number of permits on the market.

Anyway, I am all for taxing carbon and doing so world wide. But I think that while that is a nice theoretical idea, it will still take some time to actually get it done on the necessary scale.

In the mean time, all the action that actually matters is getting renewable deployed even faster. It would be nice if people like Helm could refrain from trying to stand in the way.

Published by kflenz

Professor at Aoyama Gakuin University, Tokyo. Author of Lenz Blog (since 2003,

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